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When improvisation becomes psychological!
In this new recording by Taku Unami expectations are constantly twisted leaving the listener in a perplex and uncomfortable position. We never know what is next: a pig, the wind, a river, a beat, a nasty noise,
silence, clapping, impatience, pleasure, sadism, humor, good taste, a horror movie... or the very nice and polite Unami that we all know. Taku Unami is a master of the on-off. The careful structure that holds malignitat-2 comes from years of investigating silence and tension in the very active Japanese improvised scene that he is part of together with others including Masafumi Ezaki, Kazushige Kinoshita or Taku Sugimoto (Taku has documented these musicians on his amazing hibari music label). Once, when we were about to play a concert, Taku went to the record shop and rented a CD of sound effects, which he then ripped off and played in the concert. This was later to become the famous helicopter sounds from his 1st malignitat record. Of course the CD contained other sounds which are further explored here. So many records of improvisation are about producing "good quality experimental music". The problem with this type of experimentation that tries to achieve certain aesthetic forms, is that it becomes too self-enclosed and too precious about refined and well worked out sounds. Instead Taku poses questions of what elements can be brought into improvisation and how we perceive and judge them in different ways. Taku Unami is opening up possibilities in improvisation through
exploring new ways of appropriation.
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Covers - Performances of a song with the same name by different artists
- 2008-11-21 21:44:47
Just to annoy Brian then, I have been listening this evening to Taku Unami’s Malignitat 2, a release on The Free Software Series label. This one actually came out as a free download from the label’s pages about a year ago, and I listened to it a bit back then, but didn’t write at any length about it. Such is the downside of free downloads that the recording then sat on the hard drive of my computer over the last twelve months pretty much forgotten about until the CD version of the release arrived here early this last week. If I am honest, my listening workload is so heavy that it probably wouldn’t have been played that often even if a CD had been sat on my shelves here, but I’d like to think that at least I would have spotted it from time to time and made the mental note to listen whenever I next had the time, even though that probably wouldn’t ever happen.
Anyway I really liked Malignitat 1, which was released on the Skiti label a couple of years back. I wrote about it here. Before that release was recorded, just before a concert he played with Mattin, Unami went and bought a CD of sound effects, presumably of the kind used for TV or radio production rather than anything musical. he ripped the sounds to his laptop and used them in the concert in place of the sounds we might normally expect him to produce. The first Malignitat album followed this idea through into a CD release, and the music on that disc contained music not dissimilar to we might expect him to make, but with the whirr of a helicopter and early computer games replacing the sounds we usually expect. This release follows suit. it is one thirty-six minute long track that contains a great deal of silence, punctuated by bursts of sound, sometimes tiny pinpricks repeated slowly, sometimes longer streams that suddenly stop as abruptly as they began, crunching hits of dirty buzzing, a couple of moments of an audience clapping, rarely more than one sound at a time. In his liner notes Mattin calls Unami a “master of on-off” and this is very true, as his use of sudden sounds placed into silences is exceptional, the tension, anticipation, the concern that something might suddenly come and go if you are not paying full attention…
So on this release we hear running water, gusts of winds, a snuffling pig, little clicks of what could be just about anything, and others besides. Are these sounds any less musical than the sound of a bowed string, a struck drum or a vibrating reed? these questions remind me of this afternoon, when I took a finished copy of the new Cathnor release by Lee Patterson into work to play to some of my colleagues. That disc includes just a recording of an egg frying, and is conceptually quite different to Unami’s music here, but the conversations today were the same. How can an egg frying constitute music? Where are the instruments? do you hum along to this? Does anyone actually pay for this stuff?! More on those conversations in my book!
Jesting aside Unami is asking the same questions here. There seems to be as much concentration placed into the creation of this music as on any other of his releases, and his use of sounds, the way they are structured, arranged and built into stark architectural frameworks around the extended silences is great. This is a serious work, or at least as serious as anything other Unami release. But there’s a pig, and a recording of the wind. Do these elements, which fly in the face of what people like myself usually describe as aesthetically beautiful music hold the same weight as any other sounds? the answer of course is yes, but Unami does have us challenging our own perceptions of what constitutes good music, which sounds are “acceptable” and which are not. If Feldman had composed For Bunita Marcus for pig grunts rather than piano notes would it still be as powerful a composition? Probably not. But why not? What makes one sound more aesthetically pleasing than another? Is it just our experience of music and its history? Why are my reviews of Unami’s releases always full of questions? My thoughts return to that AMM plus Formanex plus John White concert that appeared on a short-run CDr a few years back. I think the recording might have been a version of Treatise, but as well as the usual AMMisms White added samples of sheep baa-ing and other aesthetically “out of place” sounds. A lot of people disliked his contributions to that disc. I loved them.
I’m really interested to know how others feel about this music. its available for the link up above for free. Am I the only one to really enjoy what Unami does with these releases? Why is no one else making music in this way? Does anyone have any of the answers?! Brian?
Its been a while since we last heard from Mattin and his Free Software Series, or perhaps we missed out on a few. The idea is simple: there is free audio software out there to generate music, and that's basically what these composers do. Taku Unami is perhaps a bit known already for his work in the field of improvised music, and he is quite a radical voice in that scene with a strong love for extreme quietness. Here he uses 'Kluppe, PD, Ardour on Debian', which I guess means a lot for the initiated, but not for me. His thirty-six minute piece is an odd one. It has various lengthy bits of silence and otherwise dwells on solo sounds. Dry sounds of electronic origin. Clicks, hiss, static - that sort of thing, but never working around using plug ins. Towards the end things explode into a noise thing, which cuts out as abruptly as they start. A radical work, I'd say, one that requires all your concentration. A strange composition, but surely a captivating one.(FdW)
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